Confusion Remains over Pulaski County Highway Department Seasonal Employees’ Pay Rate

Some Pulaski County Highway Department employees will have to wait a bit longer before finding out whether they’ll get a pay raise. Highway Superintendent Terry Ruff asked the county council last week for a final decision on the pay rate for seasonal employees. “The seasonal is the mower guys and what we’re doing, the blacktop and everything, in the summertime,” Ruff explained.

The “Salary Matrix Rules” adopted last year specify that each department’s pay rate for seasonal employees will stay at its current level, but the department head may request a change as part of the annual budget process. Ruff said he asked to change the rate from $13 an hour, to a range of $13 to $15 an hour, depending on experience. “I just didn’t bring all of these figures up out of the air,” he said. “Last summer, I was told this. We put it in our budget for this summer, and now here we are discussing the same issues we had last summer.”

The problem is that no one was sure whether Ruff’s request was actually approved, as part of the 2019 budget. Kathi Thompson, who joined the county council after this year’s budget was formally adopted, said she looked at the budget and didn’t see specific figures for seasonal employees at the Highway Department or Prosecutor’s Office.

During last week’s discussion, Thompson proposed a number of potential solutions, including raising the Highway Department’s seasonal hourly pay rate to $15, or having the seasonal rate for all departments match that of regular part-time employees, which is $14 per hour.

Council Member Ken Boswell voiced his support for that second option. “If a part-time person that’s seasonal is expected to do the same work as a part-time person at part-time, and a part-time person is expected to do the same work as a seasonal, I don’t even know why we have a difference,” he said. “It should just all be the same.”

But it was pointed out that doing that would mean a significant pay raise for employees in other departments, such as the Extension Office. In the end, council members voted to table the matter, until they could figure out what rate had been approved in this year’s budget.